A BRIAGOLONG man has been sentenced to seven years gaol after pleading guilty to child sex offences involving three young girls.
Ernest William Gilkes spent his 84th birthday at Sale County Court on Wednesday pleading guilty to two charges of incest and six of indecent assault, the offences occurring between 1967 and 1976 in Llowalong, Stratford and Melbourne.
One victim was aged four when the abuse began; another became pregnant to her abuser at the age of 15 and the baby was adopted out.
The three victims were aged between five and 10, 11 and 12 and 15 and 18 when the offences considered by the court occurred.
The offences took place in a variety of settings, including during driving lessons, in the man’s bedroom and darkroom and while collecting firewood.
In victim impact statements the three women, now aged in their 50s and 60s, detailed how the abuse had ruined their lives.
All have suffered ongoing mental problems, including depression and anxiety.
One victim, now aged 62, said the abuse made her feel dirty and not good enough, and she had suffered stress, anxiety and depression.
“I can’t sleep because of the voices in my head yelling at me,” she wrote in her statement.
“My life is one big mess.”
The woman said the abuse occurred repeatedly from when she was aged between four and 18, with one small break.
“Even now, I don’t like to see fathers cuddling their children; it makes me feel sick,” she said.
“I don’t like to hear statements like ‘daddy’s little girl either’.”
The woman said she had been married five times and had had other unsuccessful relationships.
She said she had suffered sexual, mental, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Gilkes and he had destroyed her life.
“God gives us little bundles to love, not destroy,” she said.
“I lost my childhood, education and mental wellbeing.”
“ I don’t know what the future holds.”
Another victim said she had not been able to hold down a job, had turned to drugs as an escape, had spent time in a mental health institution and had tried to take her own life.
She had a mental breakdown at the age of 45 and had undergone counselling.
The woman said she had trouble showing affection, found it difficult to trust people, had a fear of the dark, suffered nightmares and had trouble sleeping.
She said she was fiercely protective of children.
“My life will never be the happy and content one I dreamt of,” she said.
“I never got to have a normal childhood.
“My life will never be normal as a result of what happened to me.”
A third victim, now aged 56, said in her teens she ran away twice and became wild and promiscuous.
“I went out and had sex before 16 so he could not take my virginity away from me,” she said.
“He was very intimidating and stern.
“We were all afraid of him,” she said.
The woman said despite now being married, she felt she had never really loved anyone.
She was wary of people, even friends, never felt as if she was good enough and lacked confidence.
She had also abused drugs and alcohol, had suffered depression and had a nervous breakdown.
The woman left school early and had found it difficult to hold down jobs.
“We were innocent and he took our childhoods away,” she wrote in her victim impact statement.
“Even 45 years later it still affects me.”
Gilkes’ legal counsel said while not diminishing the seriousness of the offences, describing them as depraved, they had happened almost four decades ago when Gilkes had been aged between 35 and 45.
There were no prior convictions and nothing outstanding since.
He asked the court to take into account Gilkes’ early guilty plea, saying he had displayed remorse, was likely to die in prison and posed no threat to the community.
He also asked the court to take into account Gilkes’ health problems which included diabetes, angina, coronary heart disease, a previous heart attack, elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, gastric ulcers, mild dementia, arthritis, limited mobility, incontinence and hearing problems, saying prison would result in considerable hardship.
In sentencing, Judge James Montgomery told Gilkes his actions had wreaked destruction on the lives of his victims, he had betrayed the innocence of youth and his actions had been a gross breach of trust.
He took into account Gilkes’ guilty pleas made at the earliest opportunity during a committal hearing in January and his submissions that he was remorseful.
He noted this meant a lengthy and expensive trial had been avoided and his victims saved more trauma and that Gilkes’ ill health and age would mean that he would find prison difficult.
But Judge Montgomery said he had to impose a sentence that acted as a deterrent to others.
He sentenced Gilkes to a total of 15 years, but with some gaol time to be served concurrently, his total effective sentence is seven years.
A minimum four years will have to be served before he is eligible for parole and he will also be registered as a serious sexual offender for life.
Outside court one of his victims said she was relieved at the verdict.
“He deserves everything he gets,” she said.
“I am stronger than I thought I was.
“It is a relief it is over.”